I disappeared for a few weeks as the family and I traveled across parts of the western US. While I'm gone, Scott decided to jump on those of us who have chosen to go prepaid. He says we're gonna lose coverage. Well, most of what he says is true, but the coverage 'problem' is a bit overblown.
After our return from roaming across rural Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, I can say there are a few alternatives that will keep your from losing coverage when moving to prepaid. The biggest surprise was the AT&T GoPhone. When you lose AT&T coverage, that's it...no roaming. The T-Mobile prepaid phone was far more useful with almost as much off-network roaming available as T-Mobile postpaid plans. We'll talk about CDMA-based phones later.
The real stars were the Straight Talk and Net10 'Bring Your Own Phone' plans that kept some kind of coverage virtually everywhere. Like the AT&T and T-Mobile networks they are based on, Data coverage was best on the home network, but there were far more roaming possibilities on Straight Talk and T-Mobile. Critics say the Straight Talk/Net10 coverage maps are too optimistic, but I found them spot on. That's a good thing.
The low lights are that rural data networks are still hopelessly slow, and once our Straight Talk phone 'forgot' that it is supposed to roam on AT&T (a reboot fixed that). Then there's the issue of GSM roaming on Verizon Wireless. Yes, there are parts of the old Alltel GSM network still supported by Verizon. There is no Data and there's a end date for this coverage that needs to be addressed by the GSM community soon or there will be a loss of service.
We are putting together a full report on the TracFone, Straight Talk and Net10 coverage capabilities and how they may be a good choice for your conversion to cheaper prepaid service.